What a great week it has been! With the completion of the zone conferences last week, we had the opportunity to spend more one-on-one time with the missionaries through interviews, a district council and our first proselyting experience.
On Tuesday we attended the Dichemso District Council meeting with Elder Aidoo, Elder Barrowes, Sister Codjoe and Sister Quartey. The meeting was very efficient and well run. We were done in a little over one hour. Perfect. The instruction was on obedience and was led by Elder Aidoo. Everything about the meeting was excellent.
Afterwards, I was able to interview 9 missionaries. We are so proud of these young men and young women who are striving with their hearts to be obedient and successful missionaries. I had to smile when I interviewed Sister Ebitimi, as she came into the short meeting with the key that we gave her at zone conference as a pendant on her necklace. She said she wanted to wear it now and have it after her mission also so she could always remember the lessons she had learned about being perfectly honest and exactly obedient to the covenants and commitments she has made.
We were able to finish the interviews in time to get back home and have our first virtual Mission Leadership Council “mid-transfer” meeting. It was a good way to connect with the leadership of the mission without spending significant amounts of time and money to physically gather.
Our topics for the meeting included feedback from the zone conferences, specifically regarding the session on becoming Finders of the Elect with Elder Mbuyi and Elder Morgan as well as feedback on the Vision “sticker”. We briefly discussed the dress standards as described in the Missionary Standards for Disciples of Jesus Christ handbook on page 65. We also spoke about what we are learning about transportation funding and then showed some important improvement in the key indicators. Overall, the meeting went well.
On Wednesday we drove to the Asuoyeboa chapel and interviewed 8 missionaries, including the zone leaders Elder Kwakoyo and Elder Riley. These are all wonderful missionaries who are trying to do their very best to make a difference by inviting others to come unto Jesus Christ.
The interviews went a bit long, and we arrived back at the mission home just in time to have some training from Adam Hedquist at the Missionary Training Center in Provo about how to do Digital Finding and Teaching. Elder Riley and Elder Kwakoyo have accepted an assignment to be our specialists in this area of the work. Our office elders, Elder Latapu and Elder Carling act as our referral secretaries and also joined the meeting. The hour we spent with Adam was focused primarily on how to create and run Facebook ads.
Every other Wednesday evening we have our Mission Presidency meeting. I feel so fortunate to have such powerful and amazing counselors and an experienced and dedicated mission clerk. President Thomas Tabi, President Edmund Obeng and Brother Eugene Ghorman are experienced, insightful and diligent priesthood men. Thank you, President Webster, for leaving me such great gifts!
On Thursday we traveled to Bantama Stake Center and interviewed 8 of the missionaries that live and work in the Bantama area of Kumasi.
After the interviews, we had our first experience with going out and walking the streets with the missionaries. It was delightful. We met Eric, his daughter Celestine (my grandmother’s name was Celestina) and their son who they call Morgan after Elder Morgan. We also met Dinah and her son Andrews and a group of men consisting of Bright, Dixon, Teddy (aka ComeCome). We then walked over to the compound where Isaac and Angel live and met with their cousin Delphina and her son Favour. And thus the name of this post. I want to tell you a bit more about Isaac and Angel.
When Elder Mbuyi first came to Bantama as Elder Morgan’s companion, he suggested to Elder Morgan that they prayerfully set a goal for the number of baptisms they wanted to have during the transfer. They agreed the number would be 5 and took it to the Lord for His confirmation. They put a big 5 on their marker board and drew 5 lines on the same board where they would write the names of the people the Lord would show to them to be the elect and prepared to hear the gospel. Then they went to work. The first week, all they did was serve the people. They did not teach a single lesson or place a single Book of Mormon or even a pamphlet. They just served the people. Each day they would go and play with a small monkey tied to a tree and then often helped the women close by who were making kenkey (it is fermented maize made into dough, wrapped in maize husks and served with a vegetable stew or soup). They would wash clothes, fan fires, peel onions and help cook for a number of different people near where they lived. The people in the neighborhood began to know them. Their full focus was on serving the people. Elder Morgan was a very traditional missionary. Plan out every minute of every day, work hard, talk to as many people as possible, teach as many lessons as possible and find a few people who eventually would join the Church. Elder Mbuyi was the opposite. Pray with faith, set a goal, go serve the people and let the Lord show you who was ready to be taught the gospel. Both were and are very obedient missionaries. Elder Morgan was doubtful it could work. He said it was not the way he was taught to do missionary work, but the area had produced very few baptisms over the last 6 months so he figured he had little to lose. After that first week of not teaching a single lesson, he was going crazy, but he believed Elder Mbuyi knew what he was doing, so he agreed to press on.
At the start of the second week, they went back to the streets and kept serving the people. On Wednesday, they invited a young man from the Bantama 2nd ward named Peter to help them to achieve their goal of 5 baptisms. Peter walked with them, showed them around the area and eventually took them to a compound where some of his extended family lived. Elder Morgan and Elder Mbuyi met the people, played with the children and helped the women cook food – and never mentioned the gospel. They were preaching with their actions instead of their words. At one point, Elder Morgan went over to help a 12-year-boy fan the charcoal he was helping to prepare for cooking. Elder Morgan said he looked tired and offered to help him. After speaking with him for a very short time, the Spirit confirmed to Elder Morgan, that Isaac would be the first name on the board. Isaac was mature for his age and very spiritually oriented. It was in that moment that everything changed for Elder Morgan. It was a miracle. They had been led to a family where this young man had been prepared to listen to the missionary lessons and eventually be baptized. Two days later, his younger sister Angel became the second name on the board. The parents, though non-members, were ecstatic that their children had such an interest in God. They had come to love Elder Morgan and Elder Mbuyi and wanted their children to become like them. They even bought Isaac a white shirt and tie so he could come to Church. The mom attended their baptisms.
The point of the story is that it was in meeting Isaac that Elder Morgan’s heart changed. He realized that what they were now doing would change everything about the way he had been doing missionary work in the past. Within the next week, they would add more names to their board and in that first transfer they baptized 4 people. They had a fifth person, but he wasn’t ready so they delayed him until the next month. The next transfer they baptized 6. That was 10 baptisms in 3 months. These people were special. They kept commitments, came to church, read the scriptures and were excited to learn. For the third transfer, Elder Mbuyi and Elder Morgan set a goal for 5 more people, but it was clear to them as they prayed about their goal that they needed to find these people from the 10 who had already been baptized. As of today, they found 4 among the families of those they have already baptized and another 3 have come out of nowhere and have asked to be taught so they could join the Church. Sunday was their stake conference. They had 8 investigators, elect people who desire to learn about the Church because they felt the love of these two good elders. An area with two baptisms in 6 months, will now have 17 in the subsequent 5 months. What made the difference? Love!
So, when we went with these elders on Thursday afternoon to meet some of the people they were teaching and some who had already been baptized, we were absolutely amazed at the light these people exuded. There are so many people that live near where the missionaries stay, and the people that have been baptized and are being taught are truly the elect of God. You can see it in their countenances. They stand out like bright lights in a sea of people with little interest in spiritual things. It is as if God touched each one of them and told them to find the missionaries and listen to them. It is the most miraculous modern story of missionary success I have ever observed. And we have a front row seat! I think I feel a bit like Ammon! Elder Mbuyi and Elder Morgan are having the greatest experience either of them has ever had. They love the people; they are having fun serving and loving the people and there is never enough time to do all they want to do.
On Friday morning we did some shopping. Elder Klebingat and Elder Kabason were in Konongo interviewing priesthood leaders to select the new stake presidency that would be called and set-apart on Sunday. Since they would be staying in Kumasi at the Golden Tulip, we invited them to dinner at the mission home since we are only about 5 minutes away from the hotel. That meant we needed a few things for dinner. One of most favorite things about Ghana is the bread we can buy at a store called Shop-Rite. On Friday we walked in just as they were pulling both the white bread and wheat bread out of the ovens. We purchased a couple of loaves of wheat bread for ourselves and a couple for our office couple, picked up the other items we needed and headed to our next stop. Finding that bread was like finding manna from heaven. The bread is cooked on no particular schedule so to be there when it comes out of the oven is like a miracle.
LaDawn stayed home to prepare for the evening, and I went into the Office for a meeting with Lane Steinagel and Matthew Godfrey. Matthew is the world-wide manager of “Finding” for the Church. He walked us through our finding charts and helped us to understand what we are really good at and where we need to improve. It was an incredibly valuable meeting. We talked about how we can use Facebook ads to further the work and how we can do more of what we are good at.
Elder Riley, Elder Kwakoyo, Elder Yancey, Elder Binene, Elder Latapu and Elder Carling all joined. Afterwards we counseled together about how we might effectively run ads in the mission. We decided to run three ads for 8 days each around 3 major universites, two of which are in Kumasi and one which is in Tamale. The ads will focus on “Where did I come from and why am I here?” We think these questions will especially be meaningful for college aged young adults. We are excited to get started and see where it takes us.
Dinner that evening with Elder Klebingat and Elder Kabason was delightful. We truly enjoyed being with them, learning from them and answering their question about how things are in the mission. We also learned that Elder Klebingat is a huge BYU football fan. So that was fun too. We told him the story about Elder Morgan and Elder Mbuyi that we have told in this blog post and he was gracious with the praise for the work of these fine missionaries and our effort to spread the concept across the mission.
Saturday and Sunday were filled with the District Conference for the Konongo District. Over the weekend, it became a stake which means it moved out from under my accountability and over to the area presidency. That always makes for a great day!
We have to say that the weekend was really wonderful. Saturday was very long. We left at 7:30 am to be there by 8:30 am to be able to hold a membership council for an event that happened while still a district, meaning I was the responsible leader and needed to conduct the council. It was so gratifying to sit together with President Tabi and Brother Ghorman and feel the spirit poured out on a man that had made a mistake and was remorseful and wants nothing more than to make restitution and gain back the Lord’s trust.
The meetings themselves were wonderful. Over the two days Elder Klebingat spoke directly to the people with clear messages: Repentance, love, self-reliance, Zion, Joseph Smith, parental responsibility, Come Follow Me, fortifying our home, the dangers of the internet, becoming more holy, honesty and integrity, and allowing the Lord to Prevail in our lives.
On Sunday I had an opportunity to assist Elder Klebingat to give blessings to a man and his wife who have been through some hard times but are working their way back through genuine, honest repentance. I was able to conduct a few temple recommends before the stake was formed and on Sunday we had the joy of being with the amazing missionaries serving in the Konongo Zone. Saturday night we got home late and because of the rain it took us over two hours to make what is usually a 50-minute drive. Fortunately, the traffic on Sunday was lighter. It was such a glorious weekend as Paul Oppong, the current district president, was called as the new Stake President with Kofi Boakye as his first counselor and the branch president of the Nkawkaw 2nd branch, Jonathan Amankwah as his second counselor. These are great men who love the Lord and who will do a terrific job moving the work of establishing Zion forward in the new Stake.
It has been a rewarding and spirit filled week. Still plenty of hiccups to deal with, but we are realizing more and more that is just life as Mission Leaders. We are grateful for the missionaries who are working hard to be obedient and share the gospel. We remain grateful to be here, Together in Ghana.